Glaeser, Edward L. "They Can Take It If They Want It." Review of The Grasping Hand, by Ilya Somin. Wall Street Journal, July 2015.
What limits should be placed on the public power to take private property? Ten years ago, when the Supreme Court heard the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the question of eminent domain gained newfound prominence in the arena of ideas. When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New London’s land grab, the public was furious. Over the next two years, according to a report by the anti-eminent domain Castle Coalition, 44 state legislatures “passed new laws aimed at curbing the abuse of eminent domain for private use.” Yet in reality, the public power to take private property for almost any purpose remains practically unchanged. In “The Grasping Hand,” Ilya Somin argues that “the backlash has yielded far less effective reform than many expected.” Mr. Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, provides a fine tour of the case and of the intellectual history of eminent-domain law. More important, he provides a framework for thinking about the future of eminent domain and private property.